All Aviation Articles By Addi Hemphill

Reviewing The Basics of Flying an Emergency Descent

Aircraft Propeller

If you're flying a high powered aircraft, then you probably have a flash card with 'Emergency Descent' on it.

If you're flying a normal piston aircraft, then you likely have the muscle memory down from practicing an emergency descent.

Let's do a quick review of an emergency descent because this emergency scenario actually tends to happen more often than others. 

1) Decreasing Lift

Bring the power back and, if needed, start rolling in bank ranging from 30 to 45 degrees. Remember the basics of aerodynamics! If you increase bank without increasing back pressure, you'll increase horizontal lift and decrease vertical lift. Therefore, losing altitude and beginning the descent. 

2) Increasing Drag

If you have spoilers, extend them. If you're flying a constant speed propeller then you'll need to place the prop in low pitch and high rpm to make it LESS aerodynamic. You want to get the aircraft down as soon as possible without overspeeding.

As speed allows, start bringing gear and flaps down. 

3) Decide Your Level Off and Advise

Now you're configured and in the descent but when will you level off? Well, it depends on why you're flying an emergency descent. If you started down because you lost pressurization, then you just need a level off low enough to safely breathe without getting hypoxia (around 10,000 feet) then go from there. If you're doing so because you've lost a critical system or have a sick passenger, the question then becomes which airport are you going to?

Airport Runway

Consider factors when choosing an airport such as:

-runway length (most important if you're flying a larger aircraft)

-maintenance facility on the field so you can get your plane fixed

-emergency crews that can reach you quickly

Whatever you decide, let ATC know as soon as possible then start thinking ahead to getting your checklist completed and ready for approach/landing. 

Lastly is don't forget during all of this that if you're flying a pressurized cabin you need to first get your oxygen mask on and during the descent ensure the passenger masks have deployed!

An emergency descent is a rather simple memory item, but a good review of the basics of each item never hurts!

Questions or comments? Feedback below! 

Why Aircraft Engines Thrive in Colder Temperatures

Since day one of flight training, we have all heard pilots say that aircraft perform better when it's colder outside. 

You may have heard the term density that has to do with this factor but may have not have seen it actually broken down and explained before. So here's why:

Temperature and Density

When air is entering an aircraft engine to be mixed with fuel, it goes through the 4 phase process of "intake, compress, combust and exhaust" in order to generate power. This is the same for both jet and piston engines. 

But how much air can actually enter the air inlet in order to enter the 4 step process?

Well, the slightly better question is how many air molecules

jet engine design

As explained by BoldMethod.com, "cold air molecules move slower and collide with less energy than hot molecules, causing cold air to become denser. As temperature drops, more air molecules enter an engine, and as temperature rises, fewer air molecules enter an engine."

The more air molecules that can enter an engine, the more power/performance that can be generated, therefore cooler temperatures are more preferred. 

Density Altitude & Performance 

Since we're discussing the density of air in relation to temperature, density altitude goes hand in hand with the topic. Density altitude is altitude relative to standard atmospheric conditions at which the air density would be equal to the indicated air density at the place of observation.

Or for better terms, simply put it is the density of the air given as a height above mean sea level (MSL). 

The higher you are above sea level, the less dense the air becomes, posing the same problem: fewer air molecules entering the engine, therefore, less fuel is mixed with it and lesser power is generated. 

So if you're flying somewhere with a high field elevation such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming for example, and you're taking off in the afternoon where temperatures are at their hottest, you may want to double-check performance numbers. High altitude and high temperature is the worst combination for your aircraft. 

This can even potentially stop you from being able to take off, where your only option is to wait out the temperature until the sun goes down and air cools off again. 

So, if you've been flying and curious why your plane seems more sluggish than a few months ago, now you know! Airplanes like the cold!

questions or comments? Write us below. 

Your 2021 Guide to Flying Into Aspen, CO

A lot of pilots will tell you flying into Aspen, Colorado (KASE) isn't really that bad. But if this is your first time going into that airport, especially if you're single pilot, it can be a little intimidating. 

The best way to stay safe going into KASE is to be prepared. Do your homework and have a plan in your head of how you'll fly the approach inbound! Have no worry, we're here to help give advice and links to the best information the internet has to offer!

1) Youtube

One of the best inventions of the 21st century, Youtube has a lot of aviation videos ranging from general aviation discussions for student pilots, accident reviews, and then how-to guides for difficult approaches such as Aspen. From researching the internet and asking pilots their opinions, I found two helpful links:

Aspen Missed Approach - that shows two pilots coming in and having to go missed on the actual approach back in 2010. They get set up early, stay ahead of the airplane, keep talking through the approach the entire time, then make a decision to go missed and head into Eagle (KEGE) which most use as their alternate. 

Aspen LOC DME-E and Visual Approach - this is more from the single pilot standpoint to show the workload and is just another good video showing what it's like setting up for everything from a Phenom 300

Coming in on the visual it's going to look like you're gliding on top of a mountain (pictured above), then it drops off and it seems like you're way too high above the airport (1st picture). As you keep following the approach in it'll transition to looking like you're too low. Trust the approach even if your visual cues disagree and continue to stay stable. 

2) Simulator

If you can get in a full motion sim before your trip this is a great idea. If you're going to training anytime soon, ask to do a trip into there. The simulator going into Aspen is very realistic, not to mention this is the safest way to make mistakes and have an instructor with you giving you all the best tips and tricks. 

In the simulator you an also adjust temperatures and other weather factors. This can give you a chance to see how performance changes and what it feels like gaining less performance from your aircraft. High density altitude, high temperature, add a tailwind in there and it makes for a "fun" day....if you can even take the runway. 

3) Familiarization Course

Something that you can heavily review before your trip or even better review in addition to your simulator training is a familiarization course. A great presentation is one published by Code 7700: ASE Familiarization Training that also includes the departure procedures. It includes pictures, approach charts, even landmarks to help you locate the airport and an arrival training video.

4) Phone a Friend

Along with reviewing these, I also took advantage of more experienced pilots and asked for their stories before flying in! Of course it helps to ask pilots flying the same type aircraft as you so maybe they can say which power setting or airspeed works best. 

Text an instructor from training if you have their number, ask a friend if you know one, or find a forum (like a Facebook group) to start a discussion on. 

There are lots of resources out there nowadays that can help keep you safe and confident. And if you still feel uncomfortable, trust your gut and have a different crew fly it. Or fly into Eagle instead! 

Thanks for checking out this article, wishing you the best on your trips! If you have any great links or advice to add comment below!

5 More Things ATC Wants You to Know

2 weeks ago we discussed the topic of tips from ATC. After surveying some air traffic controllers, they provided advice for talking on the radios and things they really dislike that pilots do.

Well, the feedback on this was so good I mentioned doing part two. So here it is! 

cockpit

1) Emergency

If you're ever in distress for any reason, tell your controller. They can't help if they don't know what's going on. Maybe you have an electrical issue and are having to pop some circuit breakers before you get to the next assigned task or it's as drastic as losing an engine. But whatever the reason, even if it's not yet a full-blown emergency and you need some assistance from ATC, don't be afraid to just let them know.

Sky

2) Pop Up IFR

If you need a pop-up IFR, also sometimes referred to as a local IFR request, just ask for it. Some pilots will advise never to do that because it adds extra workload to controllers having to take that information from you, put it in the system then give you clearance. Sure, it does take a little extra time to do that work, but if you think it'll jeopardize safety, then do it. ATC would rather take the time to give you that clearance than you try and stay VFR and get into trouble. It truly only takes a few extra steps and if they aren't busy it isn't that big of a deal. Just have required information ready to read off such as name, phone number, the color of your aircraft, souls on board, fuel remaining, etc.

3) Request on Check In

When you're en-route and have a switch off between frequencies, most pilots' first instinct is to check in and advise of any requests they want then and there. "Center N224JW flight level 320 requesting direct destination."

Believe it or not, in most cases on that first initial check in with the new frequency, you're likely still in the last sector's airspace. This means for your new controller, most requests have to be called in and coordinated before authorizing it. So if you check in, it's busy, and you want to help ATC out, wait a minute or two before calling back if the request isn't urgent and you're more likely to get it off the bat.

4) Approach Check In

Another check in tip! When you're checking in with approach, try and give them all the required information you know they'll ask for so they don't have to play 20 questions. "Approach, N10JM 17,000 descending via the GESSNER4 arrival, information foxtrot for ILS 13R." 

Here they don't need to ask if you've gotten the ATIS and they know what approach you're wanting so they can be ready for it. 

5) Expedite

If a controller asks you to expedite through an altitude and report your current level, they actually needed that like 5 seconds ago. Don't delay on the expedite or reading it back to them. Seems simple but the issue occurs pretty commonly and this is where both teams need to work together.

This concludes just about all of the main talking points that were sent in. If you have any questions for ATC, things you as a controller would like to add, or questions/comments in general, comment below or send it in to us! 

 

5 Things ATC Wants You to Know

Recently I conducted a survey of air traffic controllers from all over the U.S. to find what they want from pilots, instead of what pilots want from them for once. Some well-deserved attention finally! Their input was well…overwhelming. There’s a lot we could be doing better.

radar

1) Stop saying “blooooocked”

This is exactly how they worded it! When pilots key up to say this on frequency, it just clogs up the frequency. If you’re going to advise them they were blocked, make it short and quick. But most of the time there’s no need to say it. They already know. Controllers sometimes work multiple frequencies and when they say they’re on a landline, 90% of the time it means they were on the line with another controller trying to coordinate. So just be patient and key back up when they’ve had enough time to talk to them.

2) Nobody Likes Bad Weather

On bad weather days, good routes turn to bad routes quickly and things have to change to accommodate that. Neither controllers nor pilots like bad weather. Just because someone was able to make it through 5 minutes before you doesn’t mean it’s a good idea now, so just keep working with the reroutes and be patient. A lot goes on behind the scenes that we don’t see. When a controller is trying to work these reroutes as well, there are usually 3-4 coworkers talking to them at the same time and likely even a supervisor/manager behind them all trying to control the sector -- meaning it gets hectic.

3) VFR Flight Following

I’m sure we’ve all heard someone doing this on the radio before: requesting flight following and taking 30 minutes to do so. Check-in with your altitude and not just your call sign if you already have flight following from a previous controller. If you need it, the format should be a simple “center, N240MT with a VFR request” then later followed by your current location from an airport or VOR station and destination. Don't forget to acknowledge traffic calls as well! They may be often and annoying but try to acknowledge every few so ATC knows you're receiving them.

4) Speak Up

If you need a different clearance than you were given or aren’t sure about a clearance, let them know (again in a professional manner). We all make mistakes and controllers sometimes do too so it doesn’t hurt their feelings to question it. They also can’t see weather like we can so if a route assigned doesn’t work that well, you can advise and describe the weather to them too (approximate bases, altitude, diameter, etc.) so they can use that for future use.

5) Don't Lie About NOTAM's

It's understandable that sometimes you forget to listen to the latest ATIS and check the latest NOTAM's, but if you need them and don't have them, just ask. Most of the time controllers can just read them off to you. What can be an issue is saying you have them, then asking for an approach that's not in service (like an ILS localizer) or for a closed runway. 

I heard a controller playing a joke to catch pilots calling for a taxi without it recently telling them "and advise you have information Charlie" then following with "information November is actually current call me when you have it." The absolute best ground controller prank I've heard yet!

There will likely be a part 2 to this in the future because the survey had such good feedback, but these were the most discussed topics on there that needed to be touched on. Keep in mind we all want to work together for the same goal each day: to see every flight land safely. 

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